Poland has ‘not addressed key concerns’ over court independence

In a series of tweets, European Commission VP said he hoped that Poland would urgently address the concerns identified by the Commission. Photo: PAP/EPA/PATRICK SEEGER

Poland has not addressed the key concerns of the European Commission (EC) over the independence of courts, the First Vice President of the Commission Frans Timmermans tweeted on Wednesday.

Mr Timmermans took to Twitter after speaking in the European Parliament where he was reported as saying that the amendments introduced by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to reform the country’s judiciary were not enough and the reforms still posed a risk of undermining the democratic division of powers.

He wrote on Twitter that he welcomes “the change which provides now for the same retirement age for male and female judges, and the willingness of the Polish authorities to discuss the other issues.”

However, he continued that “overall, despite these changes, key concerns which the Commission identified in its Reasoned Proposal remain unaddressed.”

The top EC office bearer confirmed that the EC had moved for further procedures against Poland under the EU Treaty sanctioning Article 7. The Article 7 procedure has been triggered against Poland over court reforms which the Commission finds restrictive to judicial independence.

In theory, Article 7 proceedings could result in the imposition of sanctions against Poland, although such decision would require unanimity, which is unlikely given that some countries – including, in particular, Hungary – have balked at the idea.

Mr Timmermans wrote that he hoped that Poland would “now urgently address the key concerns identified by the Commission.”

Poland’s government has been pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of its judiciary since taking power back in 2015, arguing that the current system is inefficient and obsolete and that more accountability among the judiciary is what the public calls for. The opposition and EU leaders, on the other hand, accuses the government of bending the judiciary to its whim and of undermining the rule of law in Poland.